All posts in “postcards”

Sea & Sky

Sometimes you come across a photo that is just so perfect, that nothing else need be said.

Ecce:

070808-N-0684R-069 PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 8, 2007) - The guided missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) steams into the sunset as storm clouds set in during exercise Valiant Shield 2007. Preble is part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group. The John C. Stennis, Kitty Hawk and Nimitz Carrier Strike Groups are participating in Valiant Shield 2007, the largest joint exercise in recent history. Held in the Guam operating area, the exercise includes 30 ships, more than 280 aircraft and more than 20,000 service members from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ron Reeves (RELEASED)

Postcards from Deployment: Now Liberty Call – Asia (Eat Your Heart Out Skippy-san!)

Our deployed correspondent, AT1 Charles Berleman, checks in from the latest liberty port:

SJS,

Okay to start with I am currently in Malaysia, but last week I had a chance to visit the island of Phuket (pronounced Foo-Ket) in the Indian Ocean side of Thailand. An interesting place historically. It is one of the few mainland Asian countries to have ever not been colonized by any of the western nations. It also was one of the few nations to be “allied” with the Japan during world war 2, though to be completely fair they did put up a very organized resistance only to realize that sometimes yielding like a reed to the wind is better then being bowled over like a giant oak tree. So they become “allied” with Japan and allowed the Japanese army march over land from French Indo-China territories to attack the British lands. While that was happening though the Thai’s had a very active resistance movement. Since they the Thailand nation has been very close allies to the US in the South China Sea region. They are ruled by a constitutional monarchy and are very much a Buddhist country.

That was it for the history lesson of Thailand. There is more I am sure and things I have glossed over, but need to keep this short. First off Phuket, is an interesting place. We were visiting there at the height of their winter, which compared to your winter of 32 inches of snow, the temps were in the high 80s. (mmph – tell me about it… – SJS) There was just as much if not more so humidity. The primary selling point of this place is the beaches. They make the beaches of Florida, Va Beach, and probably Hawaii feel and look like sandboxes. This is one of the islands that was decimated by the 2004 tsunami. Though as I traveled around, you couldn’t see the scars. Though you could run across a few memorials here and there. There are a large number of resorts. Everything from the upscale multi-dollar a night sort of resort on down to one that  just a step above a flop house.

Things to do here vary. Everything from shop for that genuine Koach bag to the Ed Hardly clothing line. If you don’t want to do that then there are snorkeling and scuba diving to be down. If not that then getting on an elephant ride at one end of the island and riding over to what a traditional Thai village. If that still does rock your boat then how about just chilling on the beach with an ice cold beer in your hands working on your tan. The final thing to do is experience the local night life.

The local night life is interesting to put it mildly. I think even Skippy-San would balk at some of the things that you can do or watch here. After the sun  goes down all sorts of sex for sell comes out. The party town is called Patong. There is one bar street that also doubles as the red light district of the island. There are various bars down this street. You sit down and am immediately joined by a bar girl, buy a few drinks maybe play a few games. One of the popular games to play is a nail driving game into a log. Your given a nail and a rock hammer or a chipping hammer and try to drive the nail into the log before your opponent. Another game they had was a variations of the classic Five Aces games. You know the one, roll five aces (or ones) and you buy your party a round of cheer.  Most of these games lead to more and more drinking. In turn a few of these bar girls turn into your best friend of the night (at least for a price). On the other side of that you can go into some go-go bars and see the origin of the term “ping-pong show”. This place makes Vegas or even New Orleans during the height of Mardi Grasis look like a day in Mayberry.

After we left Thailand, we were out for a few days flying here and there. It is starting to become monsoon season out here. So during flight ops you can see some of the rain clouds out there just dumping rain. The best day though was about two days ago, we had “twister” clouds as one of the guys I worked with described them. Basically it was warm, humid, and all  the clouds were puffy at the top, but strictly flat on the bottom near the ground. Perfect clouds to produce tornados. So we were constantly moving the flight schedule all around. Flights scrubbed for weather, setting of t-storm condition 1. then an hour later re-manning of the event, from there we run around like chickens trying to get planes ready to go. Only to head into another storm, and scrub everything again. After about eight hours, the planners just threw their hands up and only got those that needed traps to get currency up and right back down via  the bolter pattern.

So after a few days of getting flights in we have now pulled into Malaysia. I will write more about this place when I get a chance. I also have a deep thought that maybe Skippy-san could wax about, since he is probably more of a SME about the region then me. That is this: Seeing all of this and the way it was all compacted the way it was. Made me think about all the various stories I had heard of Olongopo from my family and some of the other CPO’s when I first came in that had visited the PI in its height. I seriously wonder if this is all places like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc that are third world Asian countries know how to make a buck. Is by having the women pimp themselves out while the men either sling beers or counterfeit clothing. I contrast a lot of I have seen with just Singapore, Japan, and even to an extent some of the under developed places in Europe that I have been too. Is it a failing on the west’s part because we didn’t do enough to bring a country like Thailand up or is it the countries own internal faults that prevent them from becoming a decent competitor to the Singapore, Japan, Taiwan’s of the world by having a good enough economy? Just a deep thought that crossed my mind.

Sincerely,

Charles

Seascapes

Ever wonder what “they” meant when talking about a painted sky?

Wonder no more:

081222-N-6092C-125

PERSIAN GULF (Dec. 22, 2008) The guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) transits through the Persian Gulf. Ramage is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Fire Controlman Michael Clemente/Released)

Postcards from Deployment: “The Song That Never Ends”

SJS,

As I write this we are in the process of pulling pier side to a major US Naval Base on the Eastern seaboard. My squadron is being offloaded here and on the way home to our families and loved ones. At the same time we are on loading about 1500 tigers. A tiger is a civilian relative/friend of a crew member and given a chance to experience a couple of days out to sea before actually pulling back into home port at Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk Virginia. We are going to show them what we did and how we lived this previous seven months. Nearly everyone has been struck by channel fever. All through out the berthings of my squadron people who should of been asleep can’t sleep and those who did go to sleep probably only sleep for a few hours. All we can think about is getting on the MAC flight that is going to take us home to Whidbey Island. All we can think about is what we are going to do on leave. All we can think about is our families back at the beach. Making up for all the things we have missed over the past seven months.

I labeled this postcard the song that never ends because it is. As we talk about my home coming there is some one else being told to get ready or singling up the lines to leave and some are being called in the middle of the night that they have 24 hours to be at an air terminal ready to go. I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with you and your readers. It also appears that I have survived yet another deployment and am getting ready to head home again. All I think of now is going on leave and relaxing. There are a few things that I need to work through while on leave.

The biggest thing is going and seeing my grandfather and the grave of my grandmother. The previous year she had been sick with breast cancer and after some chemo and an operation. The word I had received from my family was that she had beaten that portion. Just after Thanksgiving, I had received the word that the cancer has spread to her bones. Talking to one of the flight docs who had specialized in cancer treatments, told me that it was just a matter of when she was going to die. I had hoped to get home and have my last moments with her. Instead time, just around Valentines day I was woken up and told there was an AMCROSS message for me. An AMCROSS is American Red Cross message. Basically I was told my grandmother had died. I was offered a chance by the commanding officer to use his personal telephone and make phone call ashore. Along with that I was offered a chance to take Emergency leave. I talked to my father and was basically told that by the time I would have gotten home the funeral would of happened and I would’ve still been in an airplane or waiting to get an international flight from the Persian Gulf to Philadelphia. So I turned down the Emergency Leave and instead took a couple of days off from working in the shop. It wasn’t perfect but it did work to sort of get my head back on straight. When I tie back up in Norfolk, I am heading to the airport and catching an airliner up to Philadelphia. Spending a week seeing my grandfather and various other relatives in the area. After which I am going to be back home and back to the grind of getting ready for another deployment sometime in the future.

As I have mentioned there are others out there getting ready to leave or have left or out there right now. I would recommend that if you see a guy or gal in uniform some place pay them a compliment. One of the best compliments I had received was from someone I didn’t know nor did I get a chance to meet. I was at an airport restaurant in my dress blues going home after my first deployment. When it came time to pay for my bill I was told by the waitress that my tab had been paid for by someone else. I left a healthy tip for the waitress and went about my way on to get on the airplane to see my parents. I would also say that some times the basic thing of just going up and saying thank you is appreciated by most of us.
Finally I want to say thank you to you SJS for letting me suck up your bandwidth with my wondering thoughts and pictures. I want to also thank everyone out there that sent the various care packages and cards through out the past seven months. Just after we left Marseille we received a couple of last minute ones with the last mail call. To Rich, the coffee was a savor. We were starting to get issued really bitter Turkish style coffee, when my supervisor opened up that package and saw the three bags of coffee we all jumped for joy. To the Girl Scout troops from Gainesville, thanks again for the cookies. Those were a life saver as well. I think there were a couple of times due to flight schedule changes the troubleshooter in my shop was able to chow down on a box of cookies because they had missed a meal.

In two weeks I should be back to posting at my own site and sharing various thoughts from a blue-shirt down in the trenches of maintaining Naval Aviation.

Sincerely,

Southern Air Pirate

Welcome home Southern – it’s been a pleasure hosting your posts. And to all the folks who sent care pkgs and notes – thanks too, you guys are tops! – SJS

Postcards From Deployment: Coming Home II

Welcome to Marseilles!

Marseille

SJS,

fr-e2c So since I last wrote you I was in Rhodes Greece. Since then about a week has elapsed and we have operated with the French Naval Air Force, being a flex deck for them to get some carrier quals in with their E-2′s and Rafales. A couple of the Rafales landed onboard as we sailed around near the French Rivera. We also stopped over at a port in France, Marseilles, which is a very interesting city to stop over. A famous city that has been around since the time the Greeks ruled the Mediterranean. We arrived in town just a few days before the Cannes Film Festival and one of the things we were asked to do was supply some sailors as tourists for the opening day festivals. So a couple of the guys from my work center went to the film festival and got a chance to see Mr. George Lucas, Mrs. Angelia Jolie, and a number of other stars and starlets walking around. Even cooler, they had received a police escort up to the central movie house and from there hung out going to the various meet and greats which occurs during festivals like that. Meanwhile on the ship they had a sunset parade where they had the charges from the consulate of Marseilles, the mayor of Marseilles, and various important French military officials, along with various important French civilians. This went off without a hitch and it was pretty exciting to watch it all go down. The food spread was very good, the usual party style finger foods. The really interesting thing was that instead of the usual fountain of sparkling cider they had filed up this fountain with chocolate.

Marseille-2 Marseilles is an interesting town to walk through. It has a mix of various ethnicity’s. It really seems as the city is made up of ethnicity’s that made up Frances Africa colonies. There was a distinct district composed of those from Morocco and Algeria, which was termed the Arab district by the local police. There was one that seemed to be made up of their gold coast colonies, which was termed the Africa street by the locals as well. All through out the town you could see the people interacting on decent terms. The big draw in town is this huge cathedral up on top of a hill that is called the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace. It is about two milesMarseille-3 up to the cathedral from the harbor front. Myself and a couple of others hiked up to it and inside there was a couple of prayer rooms. The biggest one where the main services were offered has this large statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in this ornate room. It was very awe-inspiring to look around. On one side of the there was a wall dedicated to those from Marseilles who had given their lives in defense of France. There were various displays of the major awards of some of these men and women who had given their all. The other prayer room was smaller then the main hall and just before you walked in there were prayer candles which you had to walk through first. Even with wearing light-weight polo and shorts the first part of the Marseille-4room with all the candles was incredibly warm. They offered spaces in the racks where you could light your own candle. We walked back down the harbor and found a placeMarseille-5 to grab a bite to eat for lunch. One of the girls I was with had ordered a seafood platter that had at the center piece a sautéed squid, some white fish, shrimp, and mussels. I had a simple seafood salad that just has squid and mussels on it all covered in virgin olive oil. After weeks of eating at Chez Truman this salad was awesome. After lunch we walked over to another end of the harbor front where there was a huge castle and fort which defended the harbor during the days of sails. There was a memorial of to those who from the French Resistance and the Free French Troops who died during Operation Dragoon which was the invasion of Southern France in August 1944.

After we pulled out we did the flex deck for some units of the French Naval Air Forces. We recovered a French E-2C and a pair of French Rafales. They stayed onboard for a few hours and then left. We all walked round the two fighters and checked them all out. I have included a couple pictures of the aircraft and the Naval Aviators. One of the interesting things is the patch that French pilots were wearing, I think I have seen that sort of patch before just not sure where.

truman rafale The end is near. Now the biggest thing to fighting is channel fever. Channel Fever is very vicious disease that causes people to get hurt and make major mistakes. What is it? Basically it is where ones mind downshifts from constantly being on task and going out to work day after day is replaced with thoughts of being home with girlfriends, wives, husbands, children, parents, all the loved ones back at the beach. Thoughts of settling down to working and getting off with the chance to enjoy liberty every day (that is if you don’t have the duty). Thoughts of different foods and adventures people are going to get involved with. To help keep people thinking about the job at work, the ship has mandatory classes forvaq home coming. Such things as car buying, money management, single sailor programs, new parent programs, married and returning, stress reduction, and some other classes along those lines. The first two are primarily aimed at the first term sailor who typically hasn’t seen as much money which they had earned while on this deployment. Just for example at the end of my first deployment with six months tax free I had something close to ten thousand dollars sitting in my bank account just on my own pay check alone. So that our sailors don’t get ripped off by some of the car salesmen out there nor do they waste all their money on wine, women, and tunes; we try to teach them about how to best save money for their future. The rest of fltdkthose classes are to help out new parents, single sailors to understand their options beyond hanging out on the ship or barracks, and de-stress from this cruise with out doing something stupid.

Sincerely,

Southern Air Pirate

Southern writes that the last postcard will probably arrive around the 31st – then everything will be packed for the cross-country haul back to Whidby. So, here’s a little something we threw together in appreciation for all the postcards this deployment:

COMING HOME

—-

Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound (I)

Truman anchored @ Rhodes Southern’s latest missive arrives following liberty call in Rhodes as the Truman CSG is headed home. Having spent some time batting about the Aegean Sea in an LST for a midshipman cruise and liberty in Athens (a very long time ago – and yes, there is a story courtesy our airwing buds from the VAQ outfit we’ll have to get around to one of these days…) we can say that is one of the prettiest areas in the world and surely a welcome relief following the months in the forge (aka Arabian Gulf). - SJS

SJS,

So we have traded off with our relief, the USS Abraham Lincoln and CVW-2 about a few weeks ago after that we made the transit south the Arabian Peninsula. There was talk as we neared the Somalia and Yemeni coastlines whether we were going to spend a few days hunting for pirates. Anti-piracy operations have become a big thing in this stage of the war on terrorism. There is belief in the region and portions of West Pacific along with along the Central and South American coastlines that various terror networks (whether it is FARC, Al Qaeda, or various rebel groups in South East Asia) are using piracy and ransoming crews, boats, cargoes as a way to finance their operations. So we are working with in the frame work of various international agreements such as the UN or NATO in that area of the Indian Ocean which separates the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean. Various nations ships are out there doing their best to hunt down pirates and attempt to capture them. It is very long and complicated work. With a carrier providing over the horizon eyes for the surface group it is a little easier.

However, due to tasking requirements in the 6th Fleet region we didn’t hang around that long and made the transit in the Red Sea about five days after doing our turn over and got prepped for the transit back through the Suez Canal. Once we got through the Suez, I started to breath a little easier. Why you ask? Mainly because on my last two deployments the powers to be above me decided they needed two carriers in the region. The first time was because of September 2001, the other time was in 2005 when due to tsunami relief our departure from the gulf was held up for a month to allow another relief carrier to show up.

Truman and USCG escort I don’t know if you have been paying attention to the news, but right now the big debate is about how many aircraft carriers we need and the working communities are being combed for officers to help contribute to a new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). (we have and we are well acquainted with the QDR draft, having suffered through the ’01 iteration, both pre-/post-9/11… – SJS) If I would recommend to you and your dear readers, have them write or contact their congressional critters about increasing funding for carriers. I don’t say this because I work on and around them. Rather they are a real boon to our capabilities for national diplomacy and to influence events ashore. Just for example the extra sixty days we spent out to sea before hitting a port just recently we spent it flying in support of the Iraqi’s Army control of Basra and the US Forces push on Sadar City. We were doing this while airfields ashore we shut down due to heavy weather. We actually doubled up on sorties because of these weather issues, just in my own squadron. Because the Marine EA-6B Prowler outfit ashore had their airfield shut down for hail a couple of days and for heavy thunderstorms for about a week and half. Meanwhile we were steaming in clear skies and sun all the time in the gulf. Enough of the soap boxing.
Anyhow, once through the ditch like I said I started to relax because that means we are actually going home. One of the diplomacy things we did recently was fly members of the Israeli Parliament and military command, along with the US Ambassador onboard to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. Interesting historical note, Harry S. Truman was the first world leader in the western world to recognize the state of Israel along with the state of Palestine, way back there in 1948. So portions of our air wing flew with some of the Israeli Air Force and did the usual bit of showing off for other nations. Letting the VIPs stand right on the foul line as some aircraft took off from a catapult, then back to the finger to watch the LSO’s do their voodoo and watch as a carrier landing occur. The fighter attacks guys did some of their usually tricks. Such as fly bys at the transonic range where we didn’t see them until they went booming over our heads during a FOD walk. Did a FOD walk so they could meet members of the crew. Again the usual things involved with a Carrier Strike Group’s type of public relations and diplomacy. The VIP’s didn’t stay onboard for the night they went home during a special 1900 cat launch.
Liberty Lines The day after that we pulled into Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes is famous for having one of the seven wonders of the ancient world over its harbor. It was called the Colossus of Rhodes and depending on which history you read it was either a statue of Zeus, Neptune (I know, I know it is the Roman name but I can’t remember the Greek name), or Hercules. This huge statue according to history that I have read stood about as tall as a ten story building and was a huge light house. It was destroyed during an earthquake. The big attraction though is what the locals call Old town which is this old city that is in side a huge castle. It honestly looks like something that could be picked up and transported back about twenty centuries. Most of the main shopping Rhodesdistrict is in what could of been the traditional trading sections of the city. In other parts there are people living in buildings that have been built and rebuilt over the various years due to invasions or acts of god. There are also something over 30 different churches in the city. Half of them are dedicated to various saints of the Greek Orthodox Christianity, but there are also two Mosques near one wall of the city and a synagogue at another end of the town. So it really an amazing town to walk through and shop in.
As for the rest of the island it is set up primarily to be a vacation island. Think of some of the other major cities like Falraiki or Lindos as something similar to Virginia Beach, Key St John's Church - RhodesWest, or Panama City. There are some awesome beaches to hang out on. We arrived during while it was still the off season so a good portion of the resort areas were still closes. I have been here before when it was at the height of tourist season. What happens is that people from continental Europe head to Rhodes as a vacation spot or they take a cruise liner that stops here for a few days and let loose. My last time here trying to be shore patrol was complicated. Because you would see some one doing the fireman carry on someone else who is passed out drunk and then just when your ready to ask for a liberty card or ID, one hears a smattering of Norwegian or Czech. We were only in town for three days, I spent most of my time in old town Old Town Alley - Rhodeshunting for some last minute souvenirs and just sight seeing. One of the big attractions in old town is something called a moat walk. Which is where you walk between the inner and outer walls of the city. From start to finish it is something like 6 miles around. My liberty bud and myself started about the half way mark and walked about three miles near the end of our last day in port. It was a nice day and along with a pretty decent walk. One of the other big things to check out in old town, though it was closed when we got there, was a series of buildings where seventeen French knights had settled who were influential in building the first stone castle. According to what I had read they were Crusaders who after being stuck in Rhodes on the way to the holy land were decided it was too nice of a place to make cash for their own lands back home. So they build homes and from their changed an old Roman fort into a castle similar to what was being build in the Normandy region of France where they were from. These knights and their relatives held on till they were replaced by the Ottomans in 1400′s who owned the island until the end of the World War 1, when the British came in and helped the Kingdom of Greece re-establish themselves. The Greeks had the island until the government fell to the Italians during World War 2. There was actually talk of trying to recapture the island but that was decided against it and the idea of just going after Italy was supposed to be easier.
Now we are in the downward side of cruise and it is really hard to keep motivation levels up since the end is so close. There are times where we are trying to song and dance in front of our CPO’s and Officers that the gripes should be worked when we get home. Their response is that we can relax when the airlift touches down at home base back in Whidbey Island. So there is that minor fight which right now the discussion that whether or not a gripe is a serious downer and will prevent the airplane from flying off when we get near to home port. On top of that we were told that around the time of the Indy 500 our mail will start to go back to our hangar and be waiting for us there. Right now, myself and my LPO are working hard at trying to figure out how we are going to pack up everything that we unpacked at the start of cruise. As you know coming back from a vacation the luggage never seems to fit back together the same way as it was starting the vacation.

Well that is about it for right now out here. Hope you all are having fun and will enjoy this upcoming work week.

Sincerely,

Southern Air Pirate

Postcards from Deployment: Coming Home (?)

Truman CSG

SJS,

So two carriers or one? I can’t say, don’t know, and even if I did can’t talk about it. That being said, the media and some of their retired talking heads are playing up something out of nothing. We traded off with our relief and am now out in the IO cruising around Gonzo Station. Waiting for the word from people above us on when to being the transit home. So now it is just sitting around for a few days and trying to keep from getting bored. Flying has tapered off and now it is death by PowerPoint with training lectures, meetings, and various other projects. Most of these relate to our operational tempo when we get back. Such fun things as post cruise inspections, other training ops, possible CQ detachments, finally the chance of being surged back out. This is the most dangerous part of a cruise. When we have be on edge all this time and home seems so far away. Now it is a reverse, home seems so close and the edge is starting to wear off. It is hard to keep people motivated in this situation. It is even harder to keep people’s minds on the fact that this is still a dangerous place out here.

The dangers are still out here. For example just last night we had an ABE almost lose an arm while doing repairs to an arresting gear engine. I only know from reading the basic safety report published that he had his arm in the engine turning a wrench. Some how miscommunication occurred between the below deck crew and the above deck crew ready to pull out the wire. So the wire was pulled out and this ABE arm was caught up in turning mechanisms. I don’t know if the medical crew was able to save his arm and the debate as I come to work today was whether or not a fly off to the beach and an ashore hospital for further treatment. The rest of this past few days safety report has been filed with injury reports of people tripping over things, bashing their heads, and even just rapping their knuckles on things. It seems as if there is now more sky larking and day dreaming; thinking of such things as munching down on a Philly Cheese steak from Geno’s, hanging out on the beach with ones friends, spending time with Martha and the kids. That is why this is the most dangerous time of the year.

One of the other things to mention is that summer is coming and with it comes the high humidity, the temps on the flight deck around 125 in the shade without engines turning and maybe 140 with full flight schedule planned. I can handle the heat. I can’t handle humidity. Heck at night when I am working it is hot and miserable right now. I think we are experiencing nights of 80% humidity and temps in the nineties. When I get off from work I stand under a cold shower just to feel better. During the day times we have chiefs and officers grabbing guys and telling them if they are up on the roof for longer then a couple of hours to head down to inside the skin of the ship and get some water while sucking up the air conditioning. I can’t wait to get back into the Med and even the Atlantic where even in the summer time it is still cooler then what the IO and the Persian Gulf is. I really am going to feel sorry for the bubba’s on the Lincoln.

I wish to thank all your readers for all the sympathy and nice notes that I have seen from the comment sections. I wish to also relay from my supervisor that those who have sent care packages were really appreciated by the guys out here. I will say that if anyone else wants to send one last care package, cookies are always appreciated by the folks out here. If you mail it before the 20th of the month we should get it while out here. Anytime after that most of our mail will be on the route to home.

Final note to think of. We have caught bits and pieces of Carrier Documentary when it has been shown on AFRTS. Also the cruise movie for this cruise has been “Superbad”. I think that has been on more often then any other movie out here. The only movie that would come in a close second would of been “Any which way but loose” with Clint Eastwood and Clyde the Orangutan.

That is about it to report while out here. Hope to have something new and some new pictures whenever we begin our transit home.

Sincerely,

Southern Air Pirate

ed. For those cards, letters and all important care packages, send them to Southern’s W/C Supervisor at:

ATI Charles Berlemann

VAQ-130

UNIT 25404, FPO AP 96601-6414

Postcards From Deployment – Not So Fast Folks…

SJS,

I am sure that most of have heard of the new offensive where the Iraqi Army is trying to replace the various anti-government militias in cities such as Baghdad and Basra. So that has lead to us being extended here on our current line period. They have extended us twice because of the need for Close Air Support ashore. Both times we were told about 12-24 hours before we were going to start the process to pull into a port for a port visit. The thing that sucks was that I was really looking forward to using this last port visit to get caught up on some sleep and various personal things. The best thing about a port visit is to use one of the days to sleep in and recharge the batteries. Port visits are the weekends for a deployed sailor. Most of us work from sun up to sun down or Sun down to Sun up and the only time we know what day the week is if we have a standard Gregorian calendar in the shop. Out to see for us airdales we operate under the Julian calendar system. The Julian system breaks the day down to just five numbers, for example 08001 is the first day of 2008. It makes it easier to figure out how many days until a scheduled inspection is due. Beyond that the only other way I know what day it is Sunday when they start to call away church services at reveille. Anyhow, now we have been on this current line period over thirty days and they are talking about giving us a beer day later on this month.

A beer day is something recent to the Navy. What it stems from is when we had carrier battle groups going to a place called “Gonzo Station” following the Iran Hostage Crisis. (ed. As the member of the inaugural CVBG – IKE CVBG – we remember it well, though not so fondly, would’ve preferred the liberty, Perth, instead… -SJS) Because of other diplomatic faux pas there really wasn’t a port for a carrier to pull into so the Navy gave battle group commanders an option to give their ships a day to drink beer. They don’t have to grant this privilege, but it is primarily to help crew moral. So what happens on a beer day? Well we all muster up either down in the hangar bay or up on the flight deck. The cooks take an engine shipping canister fill it up with ice and beer cans. Then everyone musters up stands in line they walk through and are offered two cans of beer. They then have either entertainment from a house band, bad karaoke, or run a movie. Sometimes they add in the chance to have a steel beach day or we will have a buffet of finger foods. A steel beach day is where no maintenance is supposed to occur (Of course that is dependent on the Maintenance O, Maintenance Master Chief Petty Officer, and your work load), everyone is to come up to the roof or down to the hangar bay. They usually have some 55 gallon drums which were cut in half set up grilling burgers, dogs, chicken, and steaks. The MWR folks usually set up something like a driving range off the fan tail, basketball hoops, touch football, heck I have had one steel beach day where the ship had extra and expired small arms ammunition which had to be expended before the end of the fiscal year. So they gunner’s mates offered a chance for people to get setup to rock and roll with either an M-60 or M-246 machinegun, one of the Mossburg 500 shotguns, and some M-16′s. Basically a steel beach day is a chance to relax and try to decompress. If it is done in conjunction with a beer day, there is usually an area cordon off and the Master at Arms along with the CPO mess pass out two cans of beer to everyone in the crew. They usually have you drink them and then get out of the roped off area so there is room for others. Before our new ID cards came along what use to happen is sometimes they would either mark your hand or give you a pair of tickets and try to check your name off a roster. The last time that I had a beer day when we had our new id cards, basically we stood in line and we approached a desk. We stuck our ID cards into a reader and it told the MAA whether we were 21 or not (since the XO of the ship wasn’t going to allow underage drinking) and it automatically deleted us from a listing of who hadn’t had their beers yet. Once there we walked up to the coolers and got our two beers walked down to a six foot by six foot space just being enough for a few people. We drank our beers put them in bags and walked out. So that is basically a beer day and steel beach day out here.

One of the other problems with being extended or even having port visits cut back is that personal fuses are cut even shorter. The cabin fever syndrome starts to strike harder. It is really hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been out here, but for all the coolness of doing the flight deck work and being the big stick of American Foreign policy it stills grates on you after a while of getting up showing up to work and the only thing that seems to change is which airplane a discrepancy is on. Sometimes the simplest things will push you over the edge and cash you to explode against a co-worker or a junior guy. It isn’t because they didn’t anything worthy of a flame-thrower attack, but you have bottled up a whole bunch of other stressors and that one event just caused the bomb to detonate. After that happens it takes a while before things return to normal and even then it feels awkward in the shop afterwards.

A few other notes of importance to report with this postcard. We had the CNO come onboard on the 15th of April. I was asleep when he gave his presentation on how hard we were working and gave medals to the aircrewmen who jumped in the water before Christmas to rescue the three pilots who went into the water and then the helo crew who went and rescued some local fishermen on Christmas Eve while we were entering Dubai, UAE port. The fisherman’s boat started to take on water and then sank just as the helo showed up overhead. We gave them some fresh clothes a hot meal and turned them over to UAE authorities upon arrival in the port. Well that is it for right now to write home about.

Southern Air Pirate

PS: Something else that crossed my mind while thinking about extensions to a cruise. It has been about seven months since I have drive a car, been about seven months since I just decided to go into town with out having a gaggle of friends with me, finally it has been 173 days since I could go out to a movie and catch something recent instead of something that left the theaters months ago.

Postcards from Deployment: “Strange FOD”

SJS,

From our ship’s newspaper though the folks back home might get a laugh out of this:

Sailors Rescue a Nocturnal Creature
MC3 Damian Martinez

When the words foreign object debris (FOD) come to mind the last thing someone thinks about is an owl. On the morning of March 17 on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), an owl is exactly what was found. What might have been a mishap, ended on a happier note thanks to a few Sailors’ attention to detail.

“I was the safety behind the 300 jet. That’s why I probably ended up there first,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic [Equipment] 3rd class Jeremy Smith assigned to the “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37.
He was called over by Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Apprentice Tony McJohnston, also assigned to VFA-37. What they found was a screech owl, as they later found out.

Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd class Zachary Gorman assigned to the “Dusty Dogs” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 7 and a licensed falconer in the United States, was called in to check on the status of the bird.

“When I got there I checked him over to make sure he didn’t have any broken wings and if he was dehydrated or malnourished,” said Gorman.

Gorman and the flight deck Medical team nursed the owl, or “FOD” as Flight Deck Control liked to call him, back to health. One of Smith’s main jobs is to collect FOD from inside the cockpit of the airplanes, which is why the bird was caught instead of scared away.

“The main reason I grabbed it instead of shooing it away was that I was afraid it would fly into the cockpit of another jet,” said Smith.

If the bird had stayed hidden in the cockpit, then panicked during take off, it may have caused a serious problem for the pilot. “If this owl was hiding in a cockpit while a jet was on the catapult. It could possibly bring a jet down if the pilot freaks out because an owl is flying around in his cockpit,” said Smith.

Gorman said after treating the bird they found no real problems that may have endangered the animal. “For the most part the bird was healthy, just a little tired and dehydrated,” said Gorman. He also made sure the animal was OK in a box that was his makeshift “stateroom.” Gorman has been working with birds of prey since the age of 12, prior to the Navy he worked for a rehab center for birds of prey. “I’ve worked with a lot of owls throughout the years, but I never thought I’d have to deal with one on a carrier in the middle of the Arabian Gulf,” said Gorman.

The owl could not reside on board indefinitely so they came up with another plan. “Since he was in a weak condition, flying to land would decrease his chances of survival so we thought we would give him a hand,” said Gorman. Preparations were made to fly the owl off the ship on a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) to land, where he was released safely and out of harms way. “It was a free ride. They were going there anyway so we made it a little bit easier on him,” said Gorman. McJohnston’s attention to detail might very well have prevented a serious incident from taking place.

Postcards From Deployment: “This is a Drill, This is a Drill …”

(ed. Online Damage Control school/library here. – SJS)

SJS,

So it has been a couple of days since we pulled back out of our home away from home. I know, I know, I was just there; but the powers to be decided to vary our sked up so we showed back up. Spent the time in port getting caught up in trying to complete my Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist PQS. I don’t know why I am doing this; I am in information overload right now trying to figure out all of this information. Other then that I went to the movies in town and the first class mess of my command went out for one night to dinner out in town. One of the nights that I came back and had a chance to use the USO’s computer center I stopped by your website and saw the posting about nuclear weapons and proliferation. That is an interesting topic and sort of leads me into my postcard for today. Drills! I can’t wait to get home and not hear the 1MC (general announcing system onboard a ship) pipe up with whistles and the phrase “This is a drill! This is a Drill!” followed by a series of bells. We drill for all sorts of things; fire drills, flooding, loss of steering, loss of power, aircraft crashes, fuel spills, medical emergencies, drills on drills. It gets to the point that we become like Pavlov’s dogs, when we hear a bell we start to run to a location to man up for something or to get out of the way.

Continue Reading…

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